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How Google’s location tracking led to a $42 million penalty in Australia

The Federal Court acts on complaint by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on location tracking practices

The Federal Court of Australia has ordered Google to pay $42 million in penalties for misleading consumers about the collection and use of their personal location data in Android phones for almost 2 years (from Jan 2017 to Dec 2018). This is in response to a case filed by Australia’s competition watchdog – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).  (All currency figures in USD, 1USD = 1.45 Australian dollars) Why it matters: Amid calls for a data protection law in India, this case serves as a prime example of how companies can use unfriendly and misleading tactics to collect user data. Safeguards against such acts should be included in India's data protection bill, whenever it is introduced in the Parliament again. It can also serve as a blueprint for understanding the ways in which the penalty amount is decided. What exactly did Google do?  The case primarily deals with two settings in Android phones that allow Google to record, store and use information about a user’s location. These are: Location History, and Web & Activity settings.  Google was found guilty of “making false and misleading representations” by suggesting that turning off the Location History would stop it from accessing personal data about a user's location. Whereas in reality, the Web & Activity setting also needs to be turned off to stop this. The court found that Google failed to properly communicate this information to the end-user. Hence, the users might have misinterpreted how they can stop Google from collecting their location…

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I cover privacy, surveillance and tech policy. In my reporting, I try my best to present the most relevant facts, and sometimes add in a pinch of my thoughts.

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